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OVERVIEW

The SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit project is part of Monterey-Salinas Transit’s (MST) larger vision for:

  • Connecting communities.
  • Creating opportunity.
  • Being kind to our planet.

Once in service, SURF! will increase connections throughout the Monterey Peninsula and beyond! Here’s what’s included:

  • A six-mile busway parallel to Highway 1, from Marina to Sand City and Seaside
  • Extensions to the Beach Range Road trail in Marina and Sand City
  • A new mobility hub in Marina with a safe drop-off area, public parking, and bicycle and mobility amenities
  • New transit stops serving Marina, Sand City, and Seaside
  • Traffic signal improvements for better traffic flow

 

PROJECT BENEFITS

From idea to implementation, every stage of the SURF! project has been carefully guided by MST’s fundamental vision:

Connecting communities.Creating opportunity.Being kind to our planet.
  • Unlocking fast, easy travel from the Salinas Valley to Downtown Monterey and points in between.
  • Connecting with existing transit lines—including JAZZ and other routes that serve the VA Clinic and CSUMB.
  • Providing frequent, fast, and dependable transit options for those who can’t or just don’t want to drive.
  • Linking Marina, Seaside, and Sand City with direct connections to business, shopping, and education.
  • Allowing fast, lower-cost commuting from affordable housing to major job and education centers.
  • Creating $250 million in economic benefits and 650 jobs for the Monterey Peninsula.
  • Reducing vehicle trips by over 500,000 per year—leading to a net decrease of more than 1,200 metric tons of greenhouse gases!
  • Replacing diesel-fueled buses with new zero-emission buses.

 

WHAT WE’VE HEARD SO FAR

To build a transit network that works for everyone, MST and the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) have conducted significant outreach to learn what the community wants for transit service along the SURF! corridor.

As of September 2022, MST and TAMC have participated in over 90 meetings with stakeholders and community members, including an open house in Marina with more than 65 attendees. Over the last three years, MST and TAMC have reached over 2,200 members of the community.

Here are the major themes we’ve heard so far:

Multimodal Access
Many community members cited a lack of first- and last-mile access—including park-and-ride facilities, bike racks, and drop-off bays at transit stations—as a top priority. Hearing this, we included a new mobility hub at 5th Street that includes enhanced multimodal facilities to suit every traveler’s needs!

Bus Stop Facilities
Many riders expressed a desire for improved features at bus stops, including real-time transit information displays and better protection from weather, so we were pleased to showcase new bus station designs featuring improved amenities and sheltering!

Support for Rail
We heard from community members about support for future rail. While SURF! project focuses on bus rapid transit (BRT) as the most effective way to build ridership and reduce congestion now, the project design protects the railroad corridor that are parallel to Highway 1 for possible future use.

Environmental Preservation
It’s no surprise that many residents voiced concerns about impacts to the habitats and wildlife around the project area. A shared respect for protecting our environment is why Monterey is among the most beautiful places in the world.

That’s why MST is partnering with California State Parks and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District to aid protection and restoration efforts around Fort Ord Dunes State Park and Marina Dunes Preservation. Trees and vegetation removed during construction will be carefully replaced and, where possible, planted at a higher ratio, preserving the region’s beautiful vistas for everyone to enjoy!

Get Involved!

We’ll be rolling out new ways to engage and influence the SURF! project as it advances and new design concepts become available. If you’re as excited about the SURF! project as we are, sign up for updates and/or reach out to let us know what you think.

Sign Up for UpdatesContact Us
Learn about the latest news and upcoming events for SURF! and other exciting MST projects by signing up for our mailing list.Questions, comments, and public input on the SURF! project or its key design areas can be submitted via phone (1-888-678-2871), email (customerservice@mst.org), or by mailing a letter to:

Monterey-Salinas Transit
19 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 200
Monterey CA 93940

 

PROJECT PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS

SURF! is supported by many community partners including:

  • Cities of Marina, Seaside, and Sand City
  • California State Parks
  • California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB)
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Blue Zones Project
  • LandWatch Monterey County
  • Caltrans
  • Monterey Firefighters Association




PROJECT FAQs

Project Background

What is the SURF! Busway and Bus Rapid Transit project?

The SURF! project is the latest project in Monterey-Salinas Transit’s (MST) ongoing effort to improve and modernize our regional transit network. The project includes two components.

  1. Infrastructure. A six-mile, bus-only roadway parallel to the heavily congested segment of Highway 1, from Marina to Sand City and Seaside. New bus stations and facilities will be added along with an extension of the popular Beach Range Road trail in Sand City and Marina.The SURF! busway and stations will be built along publicly owned rail line property. The Monterey Branch Line linked the Peninsula with San Francisco with passenger service from 1880 to 1971. In 2003, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) purchased the unused line from the Union Pacific to preserve it as a transportation corridor for mass transportation purposes only.
  2. Transit Service. Bus service on the bus-only lane will allow passengers using Line 20 Salinas-Monterey (MST’s most heavily used transit line) and all other bus service traveling between Salinas, Marina, Seaside, Sand City, and Monterey to quickly travel past Highway 1 traffic.Riders traveling by bus on the new busway and other transit services that connect to Line 20 will have better access to the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), the VA Clinic, beach access to Fort Ord Dunes State Park, and the communities of the former Fort Ord.

What are some of the benefits of the SURF! project?

The SURF! project is part of MST’s vision for connecting communities, creating opportunity, and being kind to our planet. When SURF! is complete, bus riders will enjoy equitable access to faster and more affordable transit throughout Monterey County, saving time and money.

Walkers, wheelers, and bicycle commuters will enjoy the benefits of the Beach Range Road trail extensions in Marina, Sand City, and Seaside.

Some specific benefits of SURF! include:

  • Zero-emission buses for cleaner air and a healthier public
  • Reduction in microplastics and pollutants that flow into Monterey Bay from vehicle tires
  • One mile extension of Beach Range Road trail for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Faster and more frequent access to work, shopping, healthcare, education, and coastal recreation
  • Well-paid jobs for local employees in the transportation sector
  • Traffic signal priority technology to swiftly move buses through stoplights

How does the project consider bicyclists and pedestrians?

The SURF! project includes several improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, including one mile of new bicycle and pedestrian trail extending the Beach Range Road trail. The project also includes trail enhancements, such as upgraded lighting in urban areas and new and improved pedestrian crossings for greater safety at street intersections.

A new crossing from Marina Drive to Reindollar Avenue will also provide pedestrian access that meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for residents on the west side of Marina Drive to businesses across Del Monte Boulevard.

New or improved connections to existing and planned recreational trails are included at:

  • Palm Avenue/Del Monte Boulevard (Marina)
  • 5th Street Station (Marina)
  • California Avenue (Sand City)

Why is the busway located in the rail corridor instead of surface streets or on the shoulder of Highway 1?

Using city streets would slow down buses, conflicting with the goals of the project. By using the publicly owned railroad corridor (while preserving the railroad corridor for future rail service), SURF! will decrease travel time on the route and encourage more transit ridership than slower bus routes on mixed-use streets.

Using the shoulder of Highway 1 has many challenges due to the following:

  • Travel time savings are minimal compared to travel time savings on the SURF! busway.
  • Shoulders are not currently wide enough for buses, and significant widening would be needed.
  • Bridges over Highway 1 would be affected.
  • California Highway Patrol opposes buses operating on the shoulder, citing safety reasons.
  • Construction costs are more than the SURF! project.

Will other vehicles use the busway?

Current plans call for emergency vehicles to be able to use the busway. Other vehicles, including rideshare, carpools and school buses, will benefit from reduced traffic along Highway 1.


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Ridership

What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

Bus rapid transit (BRT), also called a busway or transitway, is a bus-based public transport system with features that include bus-only lanes and priority traffic signaling. These features result in greater capacity, increased reliability, better traffic flow, and fewer vehicles on the road overall. A BRT-centered strategy allows us to maximize the efficiency of our transportation system and escape an endless cycle of road-widening projects.

The BRT system in Monterey County, which will include SURF! as well as the existing JAZZ! line, is a core part of MST’s larger efforts to build a modern mobility network to connect our communities.

What about the plans for light rail service? Why isn’t the project using the existing rail tracks parallel to Highway 1?

A rail option was explored as a possibility over 10 years ago. Construction of rail facilities would be a significant new project with additional environmental, aesthetic, and cost considerations. The tracks will require significant upgrades to conform to current Federal Railroad Administration safety standards for passenger rail. Our analysis concluded that bus rapid transit (BRT) is the best way to build transit ridership and meet transit needs in Monterey County.

Light rail remains TAMC’s long-term vision for the Monterey Branch Line corridor. In fact, one of the major design goals of the SURF! project has been to preserve the railroad corridor parallel to Highway 1 for use in the future when demand is higher than today.

Will there be enough ridership to support the SURF! project?

MST and TAMC’s 2018 bus-on-shoulder study demonstrates that there is already plenty of ridership to support the SURF! project. MST is always keeping up with the latest ridership projections. Using a Federal Transit Administration model, we estimate ridership will grow to over 1.2 M passengers annually by 2040.

Additionally, with widespread vaccination and many residents returning to workplaces and offices, traffic is on the rise on Highway 1. By 2040, traffic throughout the Monterey Peninsula is expected to continue to increase to more than 40% above pre-pandemic levels, resulting in stop-and-go traffic conditions earlier and for longer periods of time.

Will more buses on the road lead to greater traffic congestion?

With more frequent and reliable service, more people take transit, leading to fewer cars on the road overall. While MST may increase the frequency of buses, the result will be less traffic on city streets.

Our analysis has shown that the impact from additional buses at intersections and on city streets will be imperceptible to other drivers using the roadway. Read the Traffic Impact Assessment conducted for the SURF! project.


Community Input

What have MST and TAMC done to hear from the community about this project?

Since the initial phases of the SURF! project in 2019, MST and TAMC have conducted and participated in over 90 meetings with stakeholders and community members. More than 2,200 people attended these meetings. An online survey in February 2021 indicated overall community support for the project.

MST incorporated community input from these meetings and surveys to develop a project design that minimizes impacts and enhances overall benefits to our community and environment.

So far in 2022, we’ve introduced a Community Input Hub featuring a survey and interactive map, hosted a series of events in local communities, and hosted an Open House in Marina to present new project updates. During the open house, we solicited input from the community on specific project features including new bus station designs.

MST will continue to request input from the community. Additional outreach events and tools will be announced throughout 2022 and 2023 as SURF! proceeds into the final design phase.


Environmental Review

What environmental review process is required for this project? Why did MST not submit an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

MST considered pursuing a recently enacted California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review exemption under Senate Bill 288 (SB 288), which exempts certain types of transit projects, including bus rapid transit projects, from CEQA review.

However, in the spirit of public disclosure, MST chose to prepare an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND) as the appropriate CEQA environmental review document, as well as the SB 288 exemption. An EIR could have been prepared instead, but would have allowed significant impacts that MST believes, based on substantial evidence, can be mitigated to less than significant levels.

MST believes that being kind to our planet includes mitigating impacts to less than significant levels. MST is also working with our State and Regional Parks partners and other environmental organizations to further contribute to restoration efforts in coastal dune habitat.

Will views of Monterey Bay be affected?

Motorists and trail users will continue to enjoy the beauty of Monterey Bay, and scenic views will not be negatively affected. The busway lanes will be constructed with a low profile next to existing railroad tracks, and attention has been given to ensure the project will not block or obstruct public viewpoints facing the coast.

New busway lighting will only be added around connection points within urban areas around Palm Avenue/Del Monte Boulevard, 5th Street, and California Avenue. Buses will be infrequent in the evenings and will appear in the same visual plane as vehicles along Highway 1.

Will the project affect Fort Ord Dunes State Park?

MST is working closely with California State Parks and representatives of the Fort Ord Trail and Greenway project to ensure that there will be no significant environmental impacts to Ford Ord Dunes State Park.

Trees and vegetation will only be removed as necessary for construction and operation along a narrow 100-foot-wide corridor. During construction, MST will work to remove invasive species, and plant native vegetation instead, further protecting the area’s native species and habitats.

MST is also coordinating with State Parks and Regional Parks on restoration efforts within coastal dune areas, creating a win-win for dune habitat.

Will the project disturb native plants or create impacts for endangered or threatened species?

In accordance with federal and state regulations, MST has conducted an extensive study on the environmental impacts of SURF! and concluded that we can mitigate all significant environmental impacts from the project. As part of these mitigation efforts, all threatened or endangered species of plants affected during construction will be replaced in other locations with a better opportunity to thrive and support the coastal dune ecosystem. In addition, invasive species, such as ice plants and eucalyptus that threaten local wildlife, will be removed within the areas of construction.

Will the project generate noise?

Construction of the busway will produce temporary noise, but contractors will be required to use noise-reducing equipment and work only during established allowed hours to avoid disturbing surrounding areas. Buses will not produce noise at levels that would disrupt the nearest sensitive use areas in the project corridor, including the Fort Ord Dunes campground area. Vehicles on Highway 1 will continue to be the loudest generators of noise along the corridor.


Project Development

When will the project be completed?

Currently, the project is in the final design stage, accompanied by a round of public outreach on key design areas throughout 2022 and 2023. Kicking off construction in 2024 would put the SURF! line on track for a 2027 public debut.

How much will the project cost and how will MST pay for it?

MST estimates the construction cost of the SURF! project to be $50M. TAMC is providing $15 million in project support through Monterey County’s Transportation Safety & Investment Plan (Measure X) funds approved by Monterey County voters in 2016.

MST was awarded a $2.5 M earmark in the state budget by Senator John Laird and a $25 M grant from the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), closing much of the funding gap for construction. MST is seeking the remaining amount from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants Program and the state’s Active Transportation Program.

Which organizations is MST partnering with to advance the SURF! project?

MST is coordinating closely with many federal, state, and local agencies and organizations, including:

  • U.S. Federal Transit Administration
  • Caltrans
  • California Coastal Commission
  • Cities of Marina, Seaside, and Sand City
  • Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC)
  • California State Parks
  • Interested environmental, social equity, and community organizations

 

In The News

 

Informational Materials

 

Environmental Documents